How Does Poor Gut Health Impact Your Mental Health?

By PYM STORE

How Does Poor Gut Health Impact Your Mental Health?

Have you noticed that anytime you get nervous or excited you get butterflies in your stomach?


You have your gut-brain connection to thank for that. 


There’s no denying that your gut and your brain are directly linked, and the butterflies in your stomach are just one piece of evidence that proves that. 


Here we are diving deeper into the connection between your gut health and your mental health to show that in order to have strong mental health, you need to have strong gut health. 


The Gut: Your Second Brain

The gut is often referred to as the “second brain.” But the more scientific name is “enteric nervous system” or ENS. 


The ENS is made up of over 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract, which reaches all the way from the mouth to the anus. 


The main function of this system is to keep your digestive system in check. That means that it aids with:


  • Swallowing
  • Enzyme release
  • Breaking down food
  • Controlling blood flow
  • Nutrient absorption
  • And more

So, if the ENS isn’t functioning correctly, you run the risk of digestive disorders. 


However, that’s not all the enteric nervous system does – it also communicates with the brain. And the neural connections that your gut has with your brain show that diseases that exist in the gut can spread to the brain and cause issues with mental health. And the same is true the other way around – disease in the brain can cause issues in the gut. 


The Relationship Between Gut Health and Anxiety

As you can see from above, the connection between your gut and your brain is undeniable. In fact, over 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so the health of your gut is key to your mental health. Science has proven time and time again that the correlation between these two is strong, so now you have a legitimate thing to blame if your nerves make you feel nauseous. 


In all seriousness, the enteric nervous system has the power to trigger anxiety for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and other bowel issues such as bloating, stomach pain, constipation, and more. That occurs when the gut microbiome is off. 


The gut being in bad shape can lead to inflammation of the GI tract, which creates symptoms of disease that show in the body (ex: bloating, pain, etc) and the brain. 


Some of these diseases include:


  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

This provides evidence as to why a large number of people who have IBS and other bowel issues suffer from depression and anxiety


How to Improve Gut Health

Poor gut health is something you want to steer clear of not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. With that, let’s take a look at some ways that you can boost your gut health to keep your mental health strong. 


Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

A healthy diet is key to good gut health and that begins with a diet that is a good balance of nutrients – carbs, fats, and proteins that are packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. 


Eat Probiotic Foods

Probiotic foods contain live bacteria that promote gut health, so be sure to stock your fridge full of some of the following things:


  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Plain yogurt

Eat Prebiotic Foods

Though prebiotic foods are not living like probiotic foods are, they are important because of the indigestible fibers they contain. Those fibers are used to stimulate the growth of good bacteria


Here are some of our favorite prebiotic foods:


  • Artichokes
  • Onions
  • Chicory
  • Cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Oats

Meditate

One of the easiest ways to boost your gut health and thus, your mental health is to meditate. (Plus you gain access to all the other benefits of this practice.) 


Studies show that stress causes your body to go into a fight-or-flight response which messes up your gut microbiome. And studies also show that meditation helps with stress management. This means that when you have a meditation practice, chronic inflammation is suppressed and gut health improves


Take Supplements

Keeping your neurotransmitter health in shape is key to your gut health and your mental health. These chemical messengers are responsible for regulating key body functions including:


  • Digesting food
  • Sleeping
  • Breathing
  • Concentrating

If you don’t have the right levels of neurotransmitters you run the risk of feeling sad, restless, irritable, anxious, and more. 


Supplements are a great way to boost your neurotransmitter health, especially ones that contain GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).


Summary

Because of the direct connection between your gut and your brain, poor gut health can lead to mental health issues. And, the reverse is also true – mental health issues can lead to poor gut health. 


In order to keep the two in a symbiotic relationship, you should aim to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods, meditate, and take supplements.

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